As a kid I was weaned on US-style cartoons – most especially of the Disney and Hanna Barbera variety. These are the cute and cuddly cartoon shorts, that had pleasant and cuddly anthropomorphic characters – the Bambis, the Poohs, the Dalmatians of our childhood.
Little did I know that Japan, the land of the Rising Sun and the homeland of sushi, had been for decades developing their own unique brand of cartoons that are so far off the US cartoon paradigm it looked like it evolved completely on its own. And they call it anime.
Ever since I saw my first Go Nagai anime (Mazinger Z) I have been hooked on the Japanese subculture of anime. Personally, I think anime is loads better than its US counterparts mainly because of the themes that are being tackled and handled in these “Japanese cartoons”. Even the most mundane animes that are geared towards children tackle some very serious themes as a subtext. The fact that I can use the word “subtext” in explaining something as “child-like” as Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro or Porco Rosso goes to show just how brilliantly made anime is. One of the milestones that I mark for my passion for anime happened when I was in my early teens. I was watching Macross and my mind was still working within the US cartoon paradigm. But then one scene completely shattered the whole US paradigm for me. This was when one of the main characters actually DIED in one of the episodes. For a main cartoon character to die right in front of you was unthinkable for me. That was like saying Snow White did not sleep but actually died eating the poisoned apple. That one episode of Macros defined anime for me from then on – maverick, unpredictable and the coolest art form on the planet.